CFT members are well out in front of the AFL-CIO’s new resolve to ramp up its partnering with community allies. Educators are linking arms with new and familiar community partners in efforts that especially resonate during the holidays.

Los Angeles staff pledge: Every child deserves Shoes That Fit

The College Staff Guild in Los Angeles is working with Shoes That Fit to help kids start their day on the right foot. The non-profit is dedicated to providing new shoes to needy children so they can attend school in comfort and with dignity, better prepared to learn and play.

“Wearing the wrong shoe size is painful, totally distracts from the learning process, and is so demoralizing,” said Guild Vice President Dorothy Bates. “I heard about a boy who had to wait for his father to get home in the morning after working night shift so he could wear his shoes to school.”

The local adopted two schools near each campus and the union office. Bates and others gather pledges from college employees willing to purchase new shoes for children. Teachers at the schools assess the children’s needs. Members who pledged learn what size and type of shoe to buy and the deadline for delivery.

Shoes That Fit has distributed nearly 1.2 million pairs of new shoes to needy children since 1992.

Antelope Valley classified create tradition that aids students

In Lancaster, the holiday season starts Veterans’ Day weekend, when the Antelope Valley College Federation of Classified Employees hosts its annual Super Craft Fair. 

The tradition began 15 years ago when two retired members organized the first fair, and by 2004, the Federation had fully taken the reins. Now rents paid for display space go to the Classified Union Scholarship Fund.

Scores of classified employees help during the weekend. “It’s a fun day to see old friends, to see what kinds of crafts people are turning out, and to start my holiday shopping,” said Margie Chavez, former local president who now handles vendor registrations and other advance work.

This year, more than 100 artisan vendors offered goat milk soaps and lotions, candles, jewelry, clothing and yard art. Many of the artisans are staff members and students.

College of the Canyons faculty expand student scholarships

The scholarship program launched by Part-Time Faculty United at College of the Canyons recently expanded to award four $500 scholarships per year to qualified students, according to Pete Virgadamo, history instructor and president of the Santa Clarita union.

To submit student names for consideration in one of three categories (financial need, academic merit, and thriving returning student), faculty must be members of the local. “We are the youngest of the three unions on campus,” says Virgadamo, “and the only one that has organized a student scholarship.”

The program is named after union organizer, now AFT staffer, Linda Cushing, who “stood by us during the struggle to be recognized as a part-time faculty union,” explains Virgadamo. “The scholarship program has helped the college recognize us for what we are — not narrowly self-interested but responsible citizens on campus.”

Los Angeles Head Start workers give kids their First Book

In the last two years, Local 1475 has given away about 5,000 books and backpacks filled with school supplies at back-to-school festivals through the AFT’s First Book program. First Book stocks a broad selection of titles for readers from two years old to late teens, and only charges participants for shipping.

“We let students pick the book they want. The looks on their faces when they realize they get to keep the books are wonderful,” said Ruben Siguenza, president of the Los Angeles-based local representing early childhood workers at five Head Start agencies.

“Teaching children the value of a book, encouraging them to read at an early age, planting that seed, means they will do better throughout their school years,” Siguenza concluded.

> For more information about this popular AFT-endorsed program.